For 33 years, Rural Vermont has worked to improve equity in the food and agriculture systems, while eroding the corporate influence and consolidation that breed disparity. Over this period, we’ve been fortunate to have numerous legislative “wins.” But it’s a truism of the process that the outcome, while an improvement, is often imperfect. Each of the following campaigns falls into this category, and our commitment to a thriving land-based economy in Vermont ensures that we remain committed to advocating for further progress, even as we celebrate our success.
Animal Identification & Transportation Regulations
In 2009, the USDA attempted to implement the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which would have mandated the identification of every livestock animal in the United States. After strong opposition, the plan was dropped in 2010. Rural Vermont ardently opposes efforts to identify and monitor Vermont livestock, as well as the farms upon which they reside, at either the federal or state level, and we remain committed to ensuring that any future attempts to implement such a system meet with a similar end.
Universal Composting and Recycling
In 2012, the Vermont Legislature unanimously passed the Universal Recycling Law (Act 148), which effectively bans disposal of three major types of waste materials commonly found in Vermonters’ trash bins over the course of six years. One of the provisions of Act 148 mandates that, by 2020, all food scraps will be composted.
Composting is an age-old practice vital to the nutrient management and soil health of farms. Rural Vermont has been working with farmers to ensure that their right to on-farm composting is protected, and that the sale of compost is not taxed, just as sales of other fertilizers are not taxed.
For 40 years, Vermont’s current use law has enabled farmers to pay property taxes based on the agricultural or forest use value, rather than market value. This results in significantly reduced property tax burdens, thus helping ensure the viability of Vermont’s working lands economy. Rural Vermont wholeheartedly supports current use, and we continue to monitor developments with an eye toward safeguarding the program for generations to come.
GMO Labeling & Regulation
For many years, Rural Vermont has been at the forefront of advocacy on behalf of GMO labeling and regulation. Although Vermont became the first state to mandate GMO labeling in 2016, the law was made significantly weaker at the federal level. We remain staunch supporters of full transparency in relation to GMOs, and will continue to advocate tirelessly until such transparency is achieved.
With the recent legislative passage of the Hemp Pilot Program, Vermont's hemp industry is poised for expansion. Rural Vermont is supportive of fair and just rules and regulations for hemp, and we will be extremely active in the coming months and years to be sure that small-scale operations enjoy the same support and protection as larger-scale enterprise. For details about the hemp pilot program and hemp's history in Vermont, see Rural Vermont's most recent factsheet here.
On-Farm Processing of Poultry
Thanks in part to extensive advocacy work by Rural Vermont, community-scale farmers have recently benefited from greatly expanded limits of on-farm poultry processing. We are pleased by this expansion, and continue to monitor pending legislation to be sure our constituent's rights are upheld.
On-Farm Slaughter of Livestock
On-farm slaughter of livestock has a long tradition in Vermont of feeding farm families and their neighbors. In 2013, Rural Vermont was successful in getting legislation passed that created a legal way for Vermonters to have access to farm fresh meat. This legislation was expanded in 2016.
Raw milk has long been a foundational issue for Rural Vermont. We are strong believers in the nutritional benefits of raw, grass-based dairy, and we have seen firsthand how raw dairy contributes to the economic well-being of community-scale farms. We feel fortunate to live in a state where consumers have legal access to raw milk, but remain committed to further reducing barriers to its availability.
We understand that a healthy environment and clean water are essential to vitality of all living creatures, both human and non-human. We are also keenly aware that agriculture can be detrimental to the land and water, or an agent for healing. For this reason, we are vigilant in monitoring all pending environmental and water quality issues, and we are passionate in advocating for agricultural practices that improve the environment and the water we all depend on.